Roth: Lost Walmart Revenue Not an Issue, I'm Concerned About Runoff'
Fairlawn's Mayor William Roth was the final witness in the Copley v. Fairlawn Rothrock Road trial Wednesday.
It was more of the same in the final day of the Rothrock Road closure trial, as Fairlawn's Mayor William Roth took the stand as the city's last witness.
Roth was on the stand for six hours, which is a half hour longer than the previous testimony record set by Jason Segedy, director of the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study.
Roth had previously testified as if on cross examination for Copley Township attorney Irv Sugerman and Jacob Pollock attorney Jordan Berns. He stated many of the same things in Fairlawn's direct examination Wednesday.
"I'm concerned about the environmental effect on the area if big-box retail goes in there," Roth said. "Our goal is to preserve Schocalog Run as a buffer. We have a history of flooding in the area because the creek is overburdened. Every 10 years we have to redredge it. Approximately 40 percent of our housing stock is somewhere in the flood plain."
Roth said Schocalog Run starts in the Interstate 77-state Route 18 cloverleaf, heads south along the western side of Rothrock Road, goes through the Rosemont Country Club, and on through the southern portion of Fairlawn.
Fairlawn attorney Stephen Funk asked Roth what concerns he had about plans to develop Rothrock Road when he first heard about it in 2006. No one knew what would be built there at that point in time.
"My first concern was that type of commercial going south on Rothrock is totally polar opposite of what exists there now," Roth said. "The second was what development it was and how big it would be. It doesn't matter if it's Walmart or Target, we want big-box retail to stay on West Market."
According to the city's land use plan, the southern part of Rothrock Road was annexed from Copley in 1985 and the city modified the plan in 1988 to keep the southern end residential.
Roth said Fairlawn officials got together with Copley Township and the Summit County engineer in the 1990s to come up with a plan to widen West Market to seven lanes so as, as he understood, to keep the big-box retail on West Market and off Cleveland-Massillon and Rothrock roads.
"Walmart and Sam's Club are less than 2 percent of our tax base," Roth said. "If they want to move they're going to move and losing that tax base was never an issue."
When Roth first met with Walmart developers about the relocation, he told them his plan to close Rothrock Road and Rosemont Boulevard and that if they went in, they would go in knowing the plan was to close it to protect the "residential integrity" of the southern end of the road.
"We kept them in the loop," Roth said. "Closing the road was not meant as a threat, it was meant to protect the residents in that area — Fairlawn's, as well as Copley's."
After reviewing several traffic studies of the area, Roth said his decision to close the road came after reading that closing the road now will have a minimal impact on traffic should the development be built.
"According to the traffic study by AMATS, the traffic in that area will double and triple," Roth said. "Once the genie is out of the bottle, you can't put it back."